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What to know before studying psychology

Psychology is a broad field and a qualification in the subject can increase professional opportunities and enhance personal development. Choosing to study any subject, especially one you may not have previous knowledge of, can feel a little overwhelming. Here’s some of the factors you may wish to consider before studying psychology.

By Grant Longstaff. Published 22 August 2022.

What A Levels do I need to study Psychology?

Before studying for an undergraduate degree in psychology, you’ll need a Level 3 qualification, such as A Levels or a BTEC. Whilst there are no required subjects for studying psychology some are more beneficial than others. First, it’s worth noting you don’t necessarily need an A Level in psychology, though it can help. Studying one of the sciences (biology, chemistry, or physics) or maths can also strengthen your application. Ultimately, you’ll need a combination of academic subjects. Consider subjects such as English, history, sociology, geography, economics, politics, or philosophy. Many universities will also accept BTEC qualifications. Each university will set individual entry requirements, including the grades they would like you to have, so check with each provider or use the UCAS website.

Psychology offers a wide variety of career options

If you choose to study psychology it could potentially open up a number of different career paths. There are a number of different professions under the umbrella of psychology. From clinical psychology, which is concerned with health and wellbeing, to forensic psychology, which examines criminal behaviour and the legal system, the British Psychological Society (BPS) offers information on the career options within psychology.

However, you don’t need to become a psychologist or even work in the field. A psychology degree could help you gain the necessary skills for different career paths, including management, HR, healthcare or education to name a few. Julie Prescott, head of psychology at ULaw, used her skills to work with Fabrik Games, an independent, virtual reality game studio.

Independent and creative thinking is important

Many subjects have a rich history of theoretical ideas and concepts at their core, and psychology is no different. However, knowing and understanding the theory is only the first part of your learning. To be an effective student of psychology you will need to evaluate and analyse those existing ideas. By looking critically at what has come before, you will be better equipped to develop your own concepts. If you can think divergently and solve problems with outside the box thinking, then you will flourish in the field of psychology.

Studying psychology involves lots of research

Psychology is a science and, like other sciences, it involves a lot of research and experimentation. This may take many forms over the course of your studies. You will need to research, read and understand a variety of resources to support your written assignments, presentations and tests. In addition, you will use your study skills to design your own experiments, interpret the findings and present the results. Furthermore, maths plays a critical role in psychology. When it comes to your research and experiments you will need to record statistics, measure results and present data throughout your course. However, if this sounds intimidating there’s no need to worry. Throughout your psychology studies with ULaw you’ll have access to a psychology technician, and they can help with the practical aspects of the course so you’re never alone.

Becoming a professional psychologist takes time

You may need to carry out further courses depending on what career you wish to pursue. Studying our BSc (Hons) Psychology or MSc Psychology (Conversion) may only be the first step towards your ultimate goal. We’ve applied for BPS accreditation for our MSc course, meaning that on graduation you’ll be eligible to apply for Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership with the BPS, the first step towards becoming a Chartered Psychologist. Some roles may also require registration with a regulatory body, such as the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Employers value hands-on experience

Studying psychology will leave you with a set of new and developed skills, which many employers will look for their potential employees to have. That said, qualifications and your skills alone may not be enough to secure employment. To really stand out from other candidates it can be beneficial to have some practical experience to draw upon too.

Work experience or volunteering may be a good way to use the knowledge and skills you gain from your studies in a real-world scenario. If you choose to study the BSc with ULaw you’ll carry out a minimum of 40 hours work based learning in the third year of the course.

You can also choose to find your own opportunities for experience. Heads Together, a mental health initiative launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, offer some suggestions for organisations and schemes you could volunteer with. The NHS Jobs website also lists volunteering opportunities, so keep an eye out for openings in departments related to psychology such as mental health or psychological therapies.

Specialisation can set you apart

We’ve highlighted how varied the careers could be with a psychology degree, and many psychology courses are designed to cover a range of core subjects, so your options remain open as you study. But, if you know exactly what it is you want to do, finding a psychology course with modules which focus on a particular field will can help. For instance, the ULaw BSc (Hons) Psychology, has optional modules tailored to the unique specialisms of our lecturers. Some of these included modules include health psychology, forensic psychology, cyberpsychology, occupational and organisational psychology, and the psychology of consumer behaviour. Similarly, if you volunteer or look for work experience, try and find opportunities which connect to your career goals and make yourself stand out to future employers. 


If you’re looking for a qualification with a wide variety of career options after graduating, then our BSc (Hons) Psychology or MSc Psychology (Conversion) could be perfect for you.